Iran's increasingly isolated opposition leader said he'll seek government approval for future protests, even as he complained of unfair restrictions — a new sign that he is backing away from confrontation with Iran's rulers over a bitterly disputed election.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, who says he is the real winner of the June 12 presidential vote, has sent mixed messages to supporters, as protests have become scattered amid a tough government clampdown.

Mousavi has urged supporters not to break the law, but also insisted he won't drop his challenge of the proclaimed victory of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mousavi has alleged massive fraud, but Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ruled out a revote.

Khamenei has unleashed the Basij militia and the Revolutionary Guard, authorizing them to use whatever force is deemed necessary to squelch dissent. The militiamen have broken up even small groups of people walking together to prevent any possible gathering.

Still, dozens of friends and relatives of Neda Agha Soltan managed to pay tribute Friday to the 27-year-old woman who was shot dead Saturday and has become the iconic symbol of the protests.

The mourners arrived at Tehran's Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in groups of two and three, muttered brief prayers, left flowers on Soltan's grave and then left, witnesses said.

Vigils for Soltan have been held around the world.

Mousavi said in a post late Thursday on his official Web site, Kalemeh, that he would seek permission for future protests, even though he said unfair restrictions were being imposed. He said he has been asked by the Interior Ministry to apply in person, a week ahead of time.

The opposition leader noted that his rival, Ahmadinejad, has been able to hold two post-election marches and a Tehran rally "that were well publicized on state television, seeming to encourage participation with their regularly advertised march routes."

Mousavi has said the authorities are pressuring him to withdraw his challenge by attempting to isolate and discredit him. He hasn't led a rally in more than a week.

Khamenei has ordered a large security detail around Mousavi — ostensibly to protect him, but presumably also to restrict his movements. Authorities have also targeted those close to Mousavi.

Late Thursday, state TV reported that the head of Mousavi's information committee, Abolfazl Fateh, was banned from leaving Iran for Britain. The report, which could not be verified independently, identified Fateh as a doctoral student in Britain.

The semiofficial Fars news agency said Fateh was banned from travel so authorities could investigate "some of the recent gatherings," a reference to election protests.

At least 11 Mousavi campaign workers and 25 staffers on his newspaper have been detained since the election.

On Wednesday, 70 university professors were detained immediately after meeting with the opposition leader. All but four have been released. Those still in custody included Qorban Behzadiannejad, Mousavi's former campaign manager.

In all, at least 17 people have been killed in postelection protests, in addition to eight members of the Basij, the government has said.

Click for photos from Iran. (WARNING: Graphic Images)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Iranian authorities have barred journalists for international news organizations from reporting on the streets and ordered them to stay in their offices. This report is based on the accounts of witnesses reached in Iran and official statements carried on Iranian media.